Saturday, November 1, 2008

Beacon Touchpaper#4: "Prayers for the saints"

"...praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints..." (Eph 6.18)

My mind wanders. Regularly. One moment I can be thinking about what to cook for dinner tonight, then before I know it I'm straight on to that great scene from last night's DVD, via a poignant comment in one of Mark Driscoll's sermons I've just listened to, a cool line from a book I'm reading, and why the dog's just eaten today's post. And all that's supposed to be while I'm praying. Praying at length is one of the hardest things I've had to work through in my life.

It's often said that the average Christian spends less than 10 minutes a day in prayer. If the average Brit can spend 2 1/2 hours each day watching the TV, 44 minutes getting washed and dressed, 31 minutes cleaning and tidying, and even 34 minutes shopping - and recent research shows that we even spend 2 1/2 hours on average a day "faffing" (true story!*) - then how much priority do we honestly give to spending time each day with the God of the universe?

Paul, in chapter 6 of his great letter to the church in Ephesus, has just explained the reality of the spiritual dimension of the world around us, and the need to avoid ignorance of such a battle. As a conclusion to his great instructions on wearing the spiritual "armour of God", he finishes with the true body blow: PRAYER. Paul does not expect us to be knelt in a corner for hours, sweat dripping from our furrowed brow - there's a time and a place for such, but there's also work to be done - but instead he simply states "... at all times...". If anything has revolutionised my prayer life, it is in realising the truth of this instruction, and that realisation came when I stumbled across a quote from the remarkable preacher Charles H. Spurgeon: "The great matter is not how long you pray, but how earnestly you pray. Consider the life of the prayer rather than the length of the prayer." Don't feel you have to pray for more than a few minutes at a time in prayer. But don't go for more than a few minutes without praying either.

One means to enable praying " all times... for all the saints..." is using Paul's own prayers as models. Try Ephesians 1:15-23 & 3.16-19, Philippians 1.9-11, Colossians 1.9-14, 1 Thessalonians 3.11-13 or 2 Thessalonians 1.11-12 for starters. They are short, to the point, and powerful. Write one down on a post-it note and use it as a book mark, or maybe stick it to your car dashboard, bathroom mirror or computer screen. Pray them regularly, and maybe even learn them by heart! Using Paul's model as a template, we can pray for each other at all times, lifting God's people up before Him and asking for help, and connecting with the God of the universe ourselves on a regular, even continual basis... just imagine the outcome!

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